AncestryDNA has just released nearly 100 new African American and Afro-Caribbean genetic genealogy communities. According to a company statement, “400 years after the first documented arrival of Africans in the English colonies, Ancestry can map out the forced and voluntary migration patterns of African American and Afro-Caribbean communities, then connect their descendants to that history using their DNA….These new communities will offer our members with African ancestors new windows into their past, new levels of specificity, and new insights into how the lives of those ancestors intersected with or even helped shape history.”
The 94 new and updated AncestryDNA communities help testers with African descent to trace their family’s migrations in recent generations. The map shown here offers an overview of all African American AncestryDNA genetic communities from 1925-1950. During this genealogically recent but key time period, millions of African Americans migrated from the South to take jobs in the industrial Midwest and North. (Consult this article and table showing what cities lost and gained the most, to see what trends your family may have followed.)
Many researchers may already be aware of their family’s participation in the Great Migration of the 20th century (distinct from the prior Great Migration to New England in the 1600s). These genetic communities add another layer of evidence and historical context. For example, the new Louisiana Creoles & African Americans AncestryDNA community charts outmigration of black residents to specific U.S. regions (see map below), noting that by the 1940 census, nearly 20% of African Americans living in California’s Bay area were from Louisiana. These communities also offer clues as to the location of a branch of a family before the Great Migration, which might date back a single generation—or many generations.
Consider seeing which of your close AncestryDNA matches also shares specific genetic communities with you. Log in to your Ancestry.com account and go to your DNA home page. Click Discovery Your DNA Story and choose a genetic community (not everyone has them). While looking at the overview page for a specific genetic community, you may scroll down past the overview to see a box where you may click to view your matches who share this community. From any matches you recognize, you may be able to determine what branch of the family was part of this migration, in case you don’t already know.
It’s one more tool to help genealogists with African American or Afro-Caribbean roots trace the often document-poor trail into their family’s history.
Ready to flesh out the stories behind your Great Migration genetic communities? Read this article on researching African American ancestors during the Great Migration to Northern cities.